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What is Doom Scrolling?
If you’ve found yourself scrolling through various news outlets and social media platforms, gazing at and reading bad news, you aren’t alone. Not being to stop, and/or be able to separate from the reality of it all. This is something we call doomscrolling. Doomscrolling meaning is essentially compulsively scrolling through a whole lot of media that is negatively tuned, sad, or worrisome.
This is something that was hugely spiking in the early phases of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which was the first time that a global pandemic was learned about online. Everyone was on their phones for news sources, as things around were not something that most of us had ever seen before.
Physical and psychological Doomscrolling effects
There has been research done previously that links excessive social media use and increased feelings of depression and anxiety. The new problem of fixating on bad news on social media during the pandemic which usually depends on isolation can lead to an even higher risk of negative mental health effects.
It is thought that the more updated we are with the news outside we are at least knowledgeable of the worst that is going around but usually keeping in mind all of these (only) negative news only leads to greater fear, stress, and anxiety.
The flood of information can also cause a low level of panic. This is the cause of panic attacks and ruminative thinking (not the good kind!). The cycle draws people in, the news only worsens the general mood over time.
As we know that deploring mental health leads to depleting physical health, seen with a lack of sleep/distressed sleeping and eating patterns. Lastly, it is known that stress is never a helpful thing (in most cases, and in this case we are referring to doomscrolling stress), and it would help everyone if they could do away with it.
Why do people doom scroll?
There is usually an inherent need to want to know things going around you, and this is simply human nature. This is how we are hardwired, and this is how we have survived all these years. This is also of course due to the events that are taking place around us, viz a viz the pandemic.
The bad thing is, that the line between being informed and being completely influenced by the bad news is a blurred one. There is no shortage of bad news now, and the tensions seem to be never-ending. The headlines written are also targeted so that we will want to click and read more.
This is not to say that doom scrolling is a new phenomenon- it has been present well before the pandemic hit, and patients who already struggle with issues such as depression and anxiety are usually worse off.
Our daily lives have changed, and for more people negatively- before there used to be a limit to how much we would look at our phones, perhaps at the end of a long or in between breaks. However, now this is all there is- so much time, and therefore so much time spent scrolling. So, how to avoid doomscrolling?
Staying informed without the doom
There is always the question of- what could I be doing better in this time other than looking up news? In most cases, there are many things that you could do instead of doomscrolling. You could be scrolling for a little bit, but not for longer than 15-20 minutes. Perhaps restrict your timings on news apps and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
It is important to stay informed, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of your peace and sanity. Avoid scrolling at night, as it is difficult to be able to stop once we start, especially if there’s nothing to stop us after a certain point.
Focus on what you can do
In these cases especially, try and focus on what you really can do to help some of these causes. DO small things that can help, instead of just panicking- channel that panic into something helpful.
There are usually a lot of resources where you can donate to the cause that you are feeling connected with. Learn how to contact your local political representatives on matters. Respond and provide where you can look up places and groups where help is required.
A lot of NGOs and clinics are always in need of help, and so do small businesses all around. Helping others around your own home can help the ones around you. Stop incessantly watching/reading news, especially if you’re doomscrolling. Personally reaching out during these tough times is also really important.
If you are someone who has the money and the privilege to reach out to people who need your help, make sure you do that. There are ample things you can do, make sure you think about how you do that.
How to stop doomscrolling?
There is a simple yet effective way of not being this affected- by curtailing the amount of social media you consume. Like with most things in life, it is important to create boundaries with social media. Set reminders either on the apps or externally and restrict use to 5-15 minutes while scrolling. By doing this you can feel informed without feeling the overwhelming surge of panic.
It will do good for you if you restrict the use of certain apps over others, such as news apps and Twitter (and maybe even Instagram and Facebook). Make sure you listen to your body and mind- if you're feeling a sense of panic, stop. Don't scroll if you don’t feel like it or if your body is telling you that it doesn’t need to consume anymore.
Hang out with people who have a similar mindset, and let them know what they can be talking about or not (only in the case of bad news try to restrict it to a certain extent). Remember, your body tells you how much you can take and how much you should be taking anyway. Doomscrolling & mental health are interconnected and controlling one could have a positive effect on the other.